199 graduating seniors of Greenbrier High School marched into the Farris Center at UCA in Conway to the traditional "Pomp and Circumstance" played by the high school band. Teachers, District Board Members and mentors made the traditional walkway of two lines to cheer them in with high fives and thumbs up as the crowd cheered too. It was an extremely joyous and exciting time for everyone as students were taking their first steps into their new lives.
GHS Class of 2013 received the highest amount of national and local scholarships and grants in the history of Greenbrier High School — over $6 million. They also benefited from over $600,000 worth of college courses through the concurrent credit program. The traditional Panther blue and white robes were decorated with gold cords for the Honor graduates and gold cords with gold medallions for the Highest Honor graduates.
21 seniors graduated with Highest Honors. 25 seniors graduated with Honors. Nine AP Scholars, two AP Scholars with Honor, and four AP Scholars with Distinction graduated. One is a National Merit Finalist — Joseph Taylor Benton V.
Their academic achievements were lauded by the guest speaker, Donna Spears of 501 Life magazine. She graduated GHS in 1971 and said they could all become "501 Officials" by holding up a copy of the magazine for a class photo that was taken from the podium. She encouraged them to do the following things: "Love what you do. Get your education. Choose a job you love and find a mentor. Always do what you say you’re going to do." She added, "If you can imagine it, you can achieve it — but with a passion for it and much hard work in between."
The class heard from many of their fellow students: Joseph Benton and Justin Alexander gave opening and closing prayers; Adam Blake, Class President; Katherine Wrightam and Paige Weaver; Kelly Gamlin and Caitlin Richardson. Richardson opened her remarks with, "Draft number fifteen." With humor and directness, she quoted Dr. Seuss’ famous saying, "Don’t smile because it’s over, smile because it happened." She encouraged her classmates to find happiness by taking a deep breath, ignoring the little things, and finding optimism. She said, "The best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer someone else up. Life is what you make it, so let’s go make life fantastic."
The national anthem was sung by a quartet of Nickolas Short — a senior, Justin Hill, Corey Swann and Tyler Wilson, juniors. Twins Hayden and Hunter Thrasher dedicated a song to the GHS faculty and staff called "You Have Made a Difference," while accompanying themselves with a guitar. Under the direction of Ellen Westerman, the GHS Choir sang "I Have Plans for You."
Principal Susan Jackson presented the Class of 2013 to Superintendent Scott Spainhour and School Board President George Roberts. The graduates heard their names called by Assistant Principal Jason Miller as they walked across the stage for their diplomas. A special standing cheer from everyone came when John Wray, who had been near death, received his diploma. People came from as far away as Germany to watch their special children receive diplomas.
Joyous celebrations erupted as the graduates did the traditional thing and tossed their caps high into the ceiling of the Farris Center. Hugs and congratulations were seen all around as families surrounded their sons and daughters and classmates to wish them well. This special family event, like no other in a person’s lifetime, was a huge success.